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Thursday, November 18, 2010

ok - maybe only 2 days in Alma

My last post was optimistically entitled 4 days in Alma. Sadly - that was not the case.
We were out early, after having played a thoroughly ugly game against Michel Briand, who seems to have an ability to make me play badly against him. I think it goes back years when he showed up late for a game and I hung points on him. Karma is getting me back. Screw you Karma!
Highlights of interest:
 * Jean Sebastien Roy won the spiel - surprising many. This is a new team - that had not done well this year so far. But they played well enough to beat Martin Ferland in the finals, and earn a spot at Provincials.
So provincials so far looks like: Roy, Reid (as team Quebec), Menard and Ferland as money leaders. Someone else would basically have to win Charlevoix to change that.
Everybody else will be fighting it out in playdowns, for the last 6 spots.

* The Dominion starts this week. If you do not know what the Dominion is - you should. The Dominion has become a phenomenon in Canada - a throwback to what curling SHOULD be. It is a provincial and National championship for club level curlers that allow Joe Average to experience what it is like to curl at a competive level.
The Nationals are next week in PEI, and Quebec is well represented by two teams that will excel on the ice (we hope) but most definitely off the ice as well.
The teams from Quebec are both well known to me:  Rick Faguy is skipping the men's team with Wayne Ruggles, Stephane PaquĆ©tte and Martin Patry. I curled with Rick many times, often in North Bay. Rick's boys will likely use up the Island supply of Captain Morgan.
The women's team is skipped by Mo Horan, with Sue Gibson, Joanie Davidson (Mike Kenendy's wife!!) and Caroline Thall. This used to be my ladder team in Baie d'Urfe!
Good Luck to both teams. You can follow the event result on line at http://www.thedominioncurls.ca/.
This event is quickly becoming a big success story in Canada, and is a model for promoting the spirit of curling. I don't mean to sound too soap-boxey, but the Grand Slam and World Curling Tour have made curlers better, but have failed to make curling better. Events like the Dominion help bring curling back to its roots: namely the most sociable and sportsmanlike game on the planet. We need more of these.

* Quebec is not doing particularly well in the mixed Nationals in Manitoba. They were 1-6 last time I checked. Ugh.

* Menard and Ferland are in Brantford this week for the SunLife Classic, with some of Canada's best teams. This is a tough event to get into (in other words - they wouldnt take me!). But I am a big fan of this event - because I won it four years ago...playing with Dwayne Fowler. Still one of the highlight days of my curling career; we beat Glenn Howard in the Semis then Gushue in the finals, all while trying to keep our front end of Sebastien Robillard and Brad Fitzherebert from killing each other. Ah - fun times.

* The next big event coming up in Quebec is Charlevoix. This is the premier event in Quebec. It hosts a 20 team elite event and a 64-team open. If you curl and you are not playing in this - you should.
This event has something for everyone: Casino gambling (my front end managed to gamble between courses at the banquet), the best hotel pool and hot tub in Quebec (by far), a banquet at the Manoir Richelieu, a fun 2- day party at the curling club and great curling on great ice.
One of my favorite parts is they usually get a local band to sing at the club.
The band they had last year could play any song, but they didn't speak english - so a lot of their songs sound like musical mumbling. They massacred "Poker Face" (and played it about 30 times), but their greatest rendition was "You shook me all night long" by ACDC:
"She was a fax machine - she keep her rotor clean - she was the best damn woman that I ever seen"
Classic. I can't wait for them to do Katy Perry.
Strangely - this will be the first event I play with my actual team - with Derek's leg having healed. We will definitely be wearing the pants.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4 Days in Alma

Some random thoughts this week...

* We will be leaving tomorrow for the lovely town of Alma for the Circuit Provincial Finals. The Circuit is always interesting mainly for one reason: The winner gets a spot at Provincials.
While this carried some weight in years past, this spot is especially valuable with the number of teams in provincial decreasing to 10. Not surprisingly, all the big Quebec teams will be there; Menard, Ferland, Reid.
There is also a bit of money in play - with the winner taking home 4000.
But the big prize is the spot. As of now, Serge Reid has a spot as provincial champion, and Menard has an unsurmountable lead in the cash race to get a spot as well. The 2nd cash spot is still up for grabs (Ferland, Me, Bedard, Desjardins, Charette still have a shot). But if Reid or Menard win, another spot will open up  through money winnings. Sound complicated? It is. It will all be clear Monday.
All that to say it is an important weekend in men's curling. (and seniors, and women)
And as a bonus - I get to spend 5 hours in a car with Doctor Scott Hill...always entertaining. I can feel my head shrinking already...

* Amazingly, I have never been to Alma. I think I have curled everywhere in Quebec, but never Alma.
I am looking at visiting the local tourist attractions between games. We will surely find a way to occupy our off-ice time in a wholesome and enriching manner.

* We won the Valleyfield Open! My team, skipped in Valleyfield by the illustrious Tom Wharry, defeated Danny Bedard in the finals.
Valleyfiled is a nice tournament - the ice is pretty good, the people are nice. Admittedly the draw was a bit strange (the A semi was scheduled for 11pm saturady night, we got off the ice at 2:45am), but all in all a good weekend.
Many asked why Tom was skipping instead of me. I guess most people assumed that it was because Tom is old and needed a week off of sweeping. Partially correct - the other reason is that I needed a week off skipping. It felt nice for both of us - and we won - so apparently the plan worked.
Highlights and stories:
- Had an epic 8th end against Raby and Guillemette (the deaf guys). Those guys have game. We were 1 up in 8 without hammer, and he had a really tough shot for 4 or 5, and JUST missed it.
- Sylvain Lejour made an appearance to watch the finals (unfortunately his brother texted him that the finals were at 5pm, when they were really at 2pm), but it was great to see him out at a curling club anyway.
- Tom was grumpy despite the win, as the club ran out of 50 early friday night.
- Johnny Stewart had an eventful weekend, beating his kid in the B-semis then coming back from 5-0 down to beat the McSweens in the B-final.

* The mixed Nationals start this week. Quebec is represented by Simon Hebert and team (with Vicky and Amelie Blais). Strangely, Simon has picked up a different 2nd after dumping his previous 2nd (Marc Rivard) a month before nationals. Unusual to win the province, then get booted off your team, but that's mixed. Anytime you add women, it gets complicated.  Seriously, I don't know the story here, but let's wish them luck anyway.

Simon is likely to be the favourite at this year's mixed provincials as well, as they will be held in his home town of Baie Comeau. The mixed already has pretty tough time getting teams to sign up...I am guessing that the prospect of a trip to Baie Comeau will likely not contribute to enhanced sign ups this year.

* It was fun to watch curling on TV again this past weekend. The Grand Slams provide some interesting games. But I have to say - taking 3 hours to cover an 8-end game is SLOW.
As if curling wasn't slow enough. It must be frustrating for the players to have to wait 3-4 minutes between every end, and 15 minutes after the 4th. If I ever make a televised Grand Slam game, (a guy can dream), I will have to remember to bring my laptop - I could blog between ends!

* It was nice to watch a Grand Slam Final and not have to see Kevin Martin or Glenn Howard. I recognize how great these teams are, but Christ I feel like they are the only 2 teams in the world sometime. Mike McEwan coming to Charlevoix is even bigger news now that he has won a Slam.

* Worse part about curling on CBC - they only have about 3 or 4 commercials, which they run OVER, and OVER, and OVER, and OVER again.
While I do like the Capital One commercials (the guy who uses his gas card to buy all his Christmas presents for the points), watching John Morris workout pumping iron to sell curling shoes makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time. Suggestion to Goldline: a commercial with Cheryl Bernard working out in Spandex instead.
I will defend curling as a sport, but anyone who tells me you have to work out constantly to be a great curler is full of shit. Ask Eddy Werenich.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Provincial format and other stuff

For those of you who have not heard; Quebec has radically changed its men's provincial format again.

My opinion of the new format: its awesome! Hats off to Curling Quebec for having the balls to have pushed through these changes.

What are the changes?  Provincials will now have 10 teams instead of 20.
Who are the 10 teams:
1) The provincial champ
2) The circuit prov champ
3 - 4) the top 2 money winners

The other 6 spots will go to the 12 regions in Quebec.
Qualifying will now have two steps: a regional to qualify 2 teams by region (in mid December), then a super regional to qualify 3 teams from the east and 3 teams from the West. Details are available on the Curling Quebec site if you need 'em.
And most importantly, by dropping to 10 teams Curling Quebec can now combine the men's and women's provincials in ONE WEEK, IN ONE LOCATION.

So why is this such a great thing? Here is 10 reasons:

1. 20 teams was too many. There are not 20 teams in Quebec worthy of being at proivincials. Call me a curling snob - but if you do not practice, if you do not play in spiels, if you are not willing to put in the effort, then the provincials are not for you.

2. The new format will be better: A 10 team round robin makes sense. The old format is ridiculous. 20 teams at provincials makes no sense, and the current page system is a joke. Example: last year, Serge finished 8-1, JM finished 7-2. JM actually beat Serge, but lost to me (in a meaningless game to me where my team was super relaxed and a lot hungover). The difference: Serge has to win 2 out of 3 to go to the Brier. JM needs to win 5 in a row - without the hammer. Makes no sense.

3. There will be women! The atmosphere will be better. The parties will be better. (In my experience, put a bunch of men together in a far away town without women for 8 days - it gets ugly!). This event will kick ass.

4. It will be easier to raise sponsorship $$. It will be easier to draw crowds, and draw attention to the event. Bigger events are easier to fund.

5. It will be easier to get media attention (only one big event to cover).

6. Only one volounteer committee! It gets tougher and tougher evry year to find a group of volounteers ready to put in the time to run these events. This should make it easier.

7. Less shitty teams. Ok this may sound a bit harsh, but the reality is that having 20 teams meant that a lot of your games were against teams that did not belong there. Who wants to pay to go see an event where you can sit in the stands and think that you could do as well as many of the teams on the ice? The first 3 days of provincials often see blowout after blowout, with the big name teams trying to not trip over one of the teams that will likely go 3-6 or 2-7.

8. Going to provincials should be an honor. It should be special. It should be an achievement. For the teams that are not in the top 5 or 6,  it will now be special again. It is the kind of achievement that should get you support from your local club. With 20 teams, it was just not that big a deal anymore.
One of my favorite movie quotes - from Tom Hanks in a League of their Own: "Its supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard then everyone would do it. Its the hard that makes it great."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m888nlVxZu8 (skip to the last minute of this clip to see the quote).
It has to be hard to get to provincials.

9.  More people in the stands - and curlers. I will actually want to go and see games during the other draw. In all my years at provincials, I never went to see complete games on the other side of the draw. Just having the men's teams watching the women's games and the women watching the men's teams will increase the number of fans in attendance.

10. I will only have to write one blog about the week - not 2!

I'm sure some people will disagree with this format change. People in Sept-Iles or Rouyn-Noranda, who now face the prospect of having to travel to a "pre-provincial" likely are not in love with the new format. I agree this sucks.
My dream is that we increase the stature and profitability of these events, so as to be able to maybe subsidize some travel costs for teams in remote areas. It will not happen right away though, so it will be tough for remote teams. But I think it is a small price to pay.


- Guy! Guy! Guy! Guy Hemmings very quietly went to Ontario last week and lost the finals of a big spiel in Brampton. The spiel had some big Ontario names, and Guy earned $2G for his effots. Is this a Guy resurgence?

- I am curling in Valleyfield this weekend. This is smallish, open spiel with decent teams and pretty good ice. Its a good weekend to get a few games in before Alma (the Circuit Championship) and Charlevoix. I will discuss results next week.

- Just reading on CQ website that Ferbey (with Gushue) AND Mike McEwan (a kick-ass cashspiel team from Winnipeg) will be in Charlevoix. This is now the best spiel in Canada, and we should expect to see more quality teams from the West making the trip East. The spiel is exceptionally well run, with a 64 team open happening alongside the 20 team invitational. The Manoir Richelieu is a spectacular host.
This spiel gets bigger and better every year.
And it always falls on the same weekend as my birthday. Awesome.